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Christmas recipe: Brie, charcuterie and fruit wreath

The a brie centrepiece wows any festive gathering. Catherine French
The a brie centrepiece wows any festive gathering. Catherine French

Caterer Catherine France is a whizz at pepping up a party platter whatever the time of year. Here she shows you how to make a mouthwatering party wreath centrepiece

When her daughter Helena was little and competing in events with her pony, ‘catering’ in a field meant an unappetising burger van for mum Catherine French and her pals.

So she started taking along picnics. They became sought-after, much-admired picnics and the germ of an idea for an artisan food business was sown.

This was just before lockdown and with her grown up children at the family home near Ripon during the pandemics, Catherine was persuaded to use her free time to research the protocol for starting a food business.

‘Never one to shy away from a challenge, and certainly not wanting any regrets in life, I launched Peach Tree Picnics on 13 June 2020 for Father’s Day,’ she says.

Great British Life: A festive Catherine in her North Yorkshire garden. (c) Catherine French A festive Catherine in her North Yorkshire garden. (c) Catherine French

The uptake was amazing and Catherine humbled by the support she received.

For her, it’s all about, ‘the joy I feel when my food brings happiness to the people I’ve catered for. I’m always overwhelmed with the reactions I receive and experience as I am always doubting myself - I think if I ever stop doubting, it’s time to stop!

‘My view is that the excitement and anticipation of eating should start from the very first glimpse of what’s to come, which is why my packaging is so important to me. Visually this sets the scene for the whole experience, with each little parcel giving the same thrill as a Christmas stocking. Everything is hand wrapped and tied with a little label to personalise.’

She keeps packaging plastic-free, biodegradable or recyclable and food miles to a minimum.

At the heart of the business are local suppliers and producers.

Great British Life: One of the brie wreaths from Peach Tree Picnics. Catherine French One of the brie wreaths from Peach Tree Picnics. Catherine French

‘Yorkshire is blessed with the most amazing businesses that are so passionate about their produce and I love that they are on my doorstep.

‘Once the picnics were established, I launched the grazing platters to take us through the winter months. These were Helena’s idea having spent a year in Melbourne where they were the norm. In four years, the popularity has grown here massively and I now sell more platters than picnics!’

Her platters cater for nibbles with drinks up to full blown celebrations for 40+ guests.

‘They take all the stress out of catering for the host or hostess, as they are ready to just place on the table, or I also offer a delivery and set up service for larger events - I feel quite precious about how they are brought together and the overall presentation! I’ve now catered for birthday celebrations, anniversaries, drinks parties, weddings and corporate events to name a few.’

Running up to Christmas, it’s all about the Brie Wreath – they make a fabulous table centrepiece or as an easy lunch/supper option - a whole new concept to cheese and wine!

Here’s Catherine’s guide to creating one:

You’ll need:

Large whole brie (chose a size to suit your numbers)

Sliced Yorkshire charcuterie - selection of your choice

Fresh seasonal fruits - oranges, grapes, berries, pomegranate etc

Dried fruit - cranberries, dates etc

Roasted nuts - smoked almonds, walnuts, pecans

Yorkshire chutney or cranberry sauce

Fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme etc

Holly sprigs and battery lights to decorate

The how-to:

* Take a large whole brie and cut the centre out with your largest pastry cutter or a kitchen mug.

* Place the brie on your serving board/platter and fold or wrap slices of Yorkshire charcuterie and place intermittently around the ring.

* Infill the spaces with your choice of fruit and nuts to create the wreath effect.

* Pop a ramekin of Yorkshire Chutney or cranberry sauce in the centre and decorate around with the fresh herbs and holly, and even string of fairy lights!



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